#1 My child’s 2nd grade teacher diagnosed him with ADHD.

Fact: Teachers are incredible sources of valuable information about children’s socioemotional and behavioral functioning throughout the day. However, only qualified health care professionals (i.e. psychologists, psychiatrists and other physicians, and licensed clinical social workers) can accurately diagnose ADHD. It is possible that his teacher is correct, but it is best practice to contact a qualified professional who is specially trained in assessing and diagnosing ADHD. This is because there are varieties of other physical and emotional disorders—including hypoglycemia, anemia, and anxiety—that can share similar symptoms with ADHD.

#2 My child is diagnosed with ADHD, but I see her able to focus on her favorite activities.

Fact: ADHD symptoms are very often inconsistent. Attention can be strong at certain times, weak at others. Talk to your child’s teachers and other care providers about times of the day, activities, or situations that both highlight your child’s strengths and challenge her limits.

#3 I have an incredibly wild and hyper 4-year-old. Could it be ADHD?

Fact: While it is definitely possible that he may be showing initial symptoms of inattention, impulsivity, and/or hyperactivity, it is best to consider the frequency, intensity, duration, and cultural expectations for behavior for his particular developmental stage. Symptoms of ADHD in early childhood can be observed, assessed, and diagnosed by qualified professionals. Young children with ADHD often struggle to follow directions and are quite prone to injuries, due to their hyperactivity and impulsivity. Therefore, there is much benefit to early diagnosis and incredible evidence-based success with early intervention.

#4 I suspect my child has ADHD, but I worry about labeling her.

Fact: Many parents share the fear of pathologizing their child with a mental health diagnostic label. A diagnosis is simply a description of a particular cluster of shared symptoms. Some benefits of grouping these symptoms into a diagnosis include the well-researched interventions that have been shown to reduce negative symptoms and increase positive strengths. Furthermore, people diagnosed with ADHD have often also been described as incredibly creative, exuberant, and energetic. They are often unique and exciting people who can get a lot done, such as very successful artists, actors, and business professionals.

If my child is diagnosed with ADHD, will we have to put him on medication?

Fact: Pharmacotherapy is just one of several strategies that can be selected as part of your child’s treatment plan. Medication can be a very helpful tool for many kids and families, especially when combined with behavioral modification and therapy. But it is not a panacea. It is best to share all of your concerns and questions with your health-care providers to create an individualized plan best suited to your child and your family.

For more detailed information about ADHD diagnoses, treatment options, and advocacy strategies, attend the parent workshop led by Ellie Pelc, PsyD, on Wed., May 28, 6:30 — 8:30 pm, at Parents Place in San Francisco. Learn more and register here >